China tests anti-ship ballistic missiles
China carried out an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) test in the South China Sea on August 26, according to reports citing American defence officials. The missiles landed in waters south of China’s Hainan island, and were believed to be DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missiles and DF-21D medium range ballistic missiles with ASBM warheads, fired from Qinghai in northern China and Ningbo in China’s east, respectively.
The ASBM launches were part of large-scale naval exercises conducted by various China’s People’s Liberation Army services and involving the PLA Navy’s three fleets, although it is unclear whether the ASBM tests was against a moving target at sea.
As ADBR reported on August 26, China had earlier accused the US of flying a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in exercise airspace over waters off northern China.
Pentagon releases annual China report
The United States’ Department of Defense has published its annual report into China’s capabilities. One of the key changes in this year’s report is its claim that China has adjusted its nuclear posture, with its mobile missiles moving to rotational alert duties.
This sees its nuclear missile brigades put on “combat readiness” and “high alert” duty status which “apparently includes assigning a missile battalion to be ready to launch, and rotating to standby positions as much as monthly for unspecified periods of time”.
The report adds that China’s fixed silo-based missiles moving to a Launch-On-Warning (LOW) posture, and expecting that it will keep at least a part of its fixed nuclear deterrent on this status. It suggests that China building more launch silos is an indication that China has improved its missile launch warning capabilities, as fixed launch sites are of questionable value without a LOW posture and the early warning systems to support it.
New Chinese carrier-borne early warning aircraft sighted
Commercial satellite imagery has capture what appears to be a prototype of China’s KJ-600 carrier-borne early warning aircraft. The aircraft was seen in imagery of Xian-Yanliang airfield, which is the home field of Xian Aircraft Corporation and the PLA’s flight test unit.
The KJ-600 appears to closely resemble the US Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye, including an upper-fuselage mounted radar disc, widely spaced vertical stabilisers, and twin turboprop engines.
China has set sights on an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft for carrier-borne operations as far back as the early 2010s, although it had been limited by the lack of aircraft launch catapults on its first two aircraft carriers – Liaoning and Shandong – which preclude them from operating heavier aircraft.
This is almost certain to change with a third larger carrier that China is building at a shipyard in Shanghai, which the US DoD estimates will enter service in 2024.
Thailand backs off submarine purchase
Thailand has decided not to fund its planned purchase of two more Chinese-built submarines in its next budget cycle, after an initial approval by a parliamentary subcommittee triggered vociferous opposition.
The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha made the decision before the planned budget for the submarines moved on to the kingdom’s parliament for approval.
Thailand had planned to acquire three S-26T diesel-electric attack submarines – an export version of China’s Type 039A Yuan class design – funding for the first boat of which was approved in 2017.
RIMPAC 2020 wraps up
This year’s scaled down Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) multinational naval exercise off Hawaii has concluded, with a Sinking Exercise (SINKEX) rounding off the event on the 29th of August. The target was the former USS Durham, an amphibious transport ship decommissioned in 1994.
The hulk was hit by a variety of weapons launched by participants including AGM/RGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-114 Hellfire, and Exocet missiles, as well as gunfire from various ships and a Mk 48 torpedo from the submarine USS Jefferson City.
The Royal Australian Navy participated in the SINKEX, with the ANZAC class frigate HMAS Stuart employing its 5-inch gun and its MH-60R helicopter firing a Hellfire at the target.